The struggle

I stared at the computer screen and started crying.  It was too much.  This was too hard.  Going back to school had seemed like a good idea at the time.  I had imagined myself with dark-rimmed glasses, hair pulled back, scribbling down notes while the kids were sleeping.  It would be the classic single-mom/badass story.  One of triumph over tragedy.

But the reality didn’t match the romanticized version.  Instead, I was still in my pajamas at noon, trying to figure out this dang APA formatting and write like I knew what I was talking about.  Paraphrasing, pasting, toggling tabs, double-checking rules.  I was hangry and overwhelmed.  And then pity hit and the tears fell.  I. can’t. do. this.

It reminded me of when Duke was learning to tie his shoes.  After a lifetime of velcro, then a year of someone else tying his shoes, it was time to teach him.  Demonstrating the technique on several occasions, we both ended up impatient.  Each time, I would give in and tie them.  Frustrated and resentful.

Until I finally had enough.  He wasn’t going to take advantage of me anymore!  I prefaced the lesson by saying that I wouldn’t tie his shoes again.  This was it.  We went through the steps, slowly and cheerfully – just like the YouTuber.  Together, we did it twice.  Then, on the third try, he was on his own.

“All right, Duke.  You can do this!” I cheered as I walked away, pretending not to analyze his loop-pull-lace technique.  I nonchalantly started cleaning some dishes, when Duke suddenly yelled, “I can’t do this!  It’s TOO HARD!!”  Each word louder and angrier than the first.  He stomped his foot, slumped on the stairway, and sobbed.

I walked over to sit beside him. “You’re right,” I whispered.  “It is hard.”

And you know what?  He got it.  Eventually.  After more tears and more mess-ups and more tries.  You see, the struggle was part of the story.

Struggle shapes all of our stories.  And that is what makes us stronger.

I remember when I was a kid thinking that adults had it made.  I couldn’t wait to grow up and escape the demands of childhood.  I would have nothing to worry about besides carpooling and cooking, laundry and littles.  Adulthood seemed like a breeze.

Funny, isn’t it?  Because the demands of life are never ending.  You trade cafeteria drama for family drama.  Homework for to-do lists.  Tests for deadlines.  Things don’t get easier.  Just different.  We each have a cross to bear – and often, as soon as we lay one down, another replaces it.  We cry.  We cuss complain.  We cope.  And then get to choose: quit or persevere.

Me?  I’m choosing struggle.  New skills.  Strength.

I know it won’t be easy.  But that’s what makes for the best stories.

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